Quitting my Chapstick habit

So this may be a very odd thing to talk about and please don’t think I am being flippant but I was addicted to Chapstick. When I was a teenager I had really bad eczema and suffered from recurrent cold sores which was quite unsightly, especially once I got braces as well.

When I was 15 I discovered medicated Chapstick and it really helped with my dry lips. However when the eczema, cold sores and braces went I was about 17 but I still kept on using Chapstick or Lypsyll ALL the time! I always had a tube with me whatever I was wearing and I had stocks stored all over the place – coat pockets, car doors, drawers, handbags….you get the drift – everywhere!

Over the last 30 years I must have gone through hundreds of lip balms, usually Chapstick, and the “addiction” has just always been there. I got panicky if I didn’t have a tube near me and I probably was applying it every hour at least. I  used to wake up in the middle of the night to put it on. If it had fallen down the back of the cabinet I would be there in the middle of night putting the light on and moving the drawers to get it.

I started a new job last May and in the middle of a really long meeting I got into a panic as my Chapstick was outside and I couldn’t get to it. In the end I actually got up and left the meeting to get it.

After a little research I realise I am not alone in this – there are loads of blog posts and there is even a Lip Balm Anonymous – I kid you not!! It seems it isn’t a physical “addiction”, it is more of a learned habit and feeling of security. This is a link to one of interesting articles I read –  https://www.salon.com/1999/04/23/lip_balm/

The crunch point came for me when I set up the Sustainably You market stall at events. There I was selling plastic free, vegan products and from my pocket I would produce my plastic tube of lanolin and smear it all over my lips. I did get a few funny looks and it made me realise I needed to try to something new.

In December 2019 I went cold turkey and didn’t put anything on all day – it was very uncomfortable to say the least. I felt very exposed and anxious all day – I told myself to “Get a grip – it’s only Chapstick!”. However by the end of the day I found a secret pot of lip balm and caved in.

Since then I have totally stopped using Chapstick and I have moved to using a shea butter lip balm in a metal tin. I don’t use it anywhere near as often – maybe three times a day and I am getting used to my lips feeling different. I can go all day without even thinking about putting anything on my lips and I don’t get the panic I used to get it if I couldn’t find a tube near me within 10 seconds.

I realise this is a relatively minor issue in relation to world events but I do wonder how many other people are experiencing the same thing. In our drive to reduce plastic can we break our addiction to these little plastic tubes? Can the cosmetics industry help? What is most the sustainable way to use lip balm if we need to?

Do get in touch if you have any comments to make – I would be really interested to hear other people’s experiences. 20200125_112858

Our story updated

It has been more than a year since we finished “Our Year of Living Sustainably” blog and we thought it was time to update you on progress. As a family we are still trying to live as sustainably as possible and in the last few months our passion for sustainability has been revived once again.

At the end of 2018 we were quite relieved not to be so publicly “on show” about our drive to live sustainably but as the year progressed we just couldn’t go back to how we had been. We still get our veg box, milk in glass bottles, use an Eco Egg for laundry, travel sustainably (Jane only!!), buy second hand clothes as much as we can, reduce meat consumption and use local butchers, do litter picks and so on but….we do fail in certain areas.

Most of our fails have been around how to reward ourselves and this is where consumerism hooks us in. Last year we went on a package holiday to Spain and flew on an aeroplane (shock, horror!!). But it was an amazing holiday and well worth it. Mark has bought a sports car (second hand) – he is at that age! Jane was very unhappy about the car but for the sake of a happy marriage she gave in.

On a more positive note we arranged a clothes swap last Autumn in Samuel’s school and we are working with our church to host a conference called “Living Sustainably in a Modern World” Tickets here! We have managed to get Luke Pollard MP to speak which we are very excited about as he is talking about Plymouth going carbon neutral by 2030.

Another exciting project is “Sustainably You” where Jane has become a market trader in the Pannier market. She has set up a small business selling sustainable and fairtrade products that she believes in and uses herself. It has been going 4 months so far and we have all learnt a lot. We accidentally bought 80kg of French Market soaps – we had no idea how much soap this would be until our back room was filled with these amazing fragrances and cardboard boxes. The soap is “naked”, that is, no wrapping, so we have loads of different fragrances wafting around our house – lavender, almond, lemon, popcorn, orange, strawberry, thyme and much more…

She is also selling other things like bamboo socks, recycled scarves, Dalit candles and rainbow toothbrushes. It is a strange mix but she is trying to find things that are sustainable, fairtrade, eco-friendly as well as making sure that people want to buy it!

We feel the next part of our journey is working with other people in our community and through our workplaces to share the love of sustainable living. We would love to hear what you are doing so please do get in touch with us!

Final thoughts on our year

We can’t quite believe it but our year of living sustainably has come to an end so we thought we would share some of our thoughts with you about our journey.

There is no black or white:

When we started this year we thought it would be fairly obvious what to do but how wrong we were! For almost every decision there is a debate and shades of grey – for example using a plastic single use bag many times could actually be more environmentally friendly than using a cotton bag which is hard to recycle – link to the debate – Reuse this bag

There are heroes everywhere:

As you can imagine we have had a massive number of conversations about sustainability this year and we have enjoyed meeting so many amazing people who are all doing their bit to care for the environment. Most people are just getting on and doing it without making a fuss – we just want to thank all the brilliant people we have met and who have helped us along the way by encouraging and caring about our planet. A few mentions – Keveral Farm especially Bill Knight, Gribbles – Craig and Maria, Kate Tayler, Claire Ainsworth to name a few!

Consumerism is the biggest battle:

The difference between wanting and needing something is a constant tension is our lives. We already have so much and we are grateful for this but we regularly look around and think we need more or something different. We have definitely tried to either buy second hand or do without through the year but without realising it we slip and submit to the lure of the shops and buying a brand new shiny thing. the important thing is not to beat ourselves up over this.

Plastic isn’t evil:

Throughout the year many people have asked us if we have gone plastic free and have thought living sustainably means not getting any plastic. We have consciously reduced the amount of plastic we use / buy, especially single use plastic, however it is very difficult to live in our modern society without it. For us sustainability is about looking where things come from, how they are made and what impact does it have on the planet. Big companies are now realising the tide is turning for their products wrapped in plastic and that consumers are demanding different packaging. This is a good thing however putting strawberries flown from South Africa in a cardboard box doesn’t make them sustainable.

Also the use of plastic in healthcare has revolutionised our society – for example single use plastic syringes and plastic tubing has gone a long way to reduce simple infections that killed people.

Rubbish is everywhere:

Since starting doing local litter picks we notice the amount of litter that is around the streets in Plymouth. You very rarely see anyone drop anything so where does it all come from – it seems to appear overnight. We try to pick up a piece of litter a day now – so at least we are doing one positive thing about it. It would be great if every person in Plymouth would pick up one piece of litter a day – imagine how clean the City would be in a year’s time.

We are not stopping now:

We get asked if we are going back to how we were and our answer is an emphatic NO! We could never go back knowing what we do now – we are now true sustainability warriors, this is a different culture change to our lives and will keep on being sustainable and looking at new and improved solutions, however it will mean much less on the blog front, sorry all, we know you will miss us and, however we are still here and if you want to know more just ask and keep your eyes peeled for our next adventure!

Lessons learned about Christmas tree shopping

Note to self: A Christmas tree in a field looks much smaller than a Christmas tree in a front room!

Yesterday we trotted off to Ashburton Christmas tree farm and it was fab! There were loads if different height trees and we found a lovely one. A lovely man cut it down and rammed it into the car. We got it home and it was huge!! Why oh why didn’t we measure it! We had to take the doors off and move the whole room around but it looks amazing if leaning ever so slightly!

A sustainable Christmas

So coming up is the most expensive, stressful and indulgent time of year – you guessed it Christmas! I am not a great lover of Christmas however Mark and Samuel still believes in Father Christmas so I have no escape. These are some of the things we will be trying to do to be as sustainable as possible this year:

Christmas tree and decorations

We always have a debate every year about whether to buy a fake one (Jane) in the sales or get a real one (Mark). After some research it seems going for the real thing is the most sustainable thing to do as Christmas trees are crops whereas you have to use the same fake tree for 20 years to realise any environmental saving. The advice (apparently!) is to make sure you are getting a locally sourced one that complies with FSC standards – here is a good article – Eco Guide to Christmas trees

We are just looking at where to go to cut down our tree this weekend – Ashburton Christmas Tree farm seems a good bet at the mo but I would welcome any other suggestions.  Xmas tree

We won’t be getting any new decorations this year – we will just keep reusing the ones from the last ten years!

Christmas presents 

We are trying to do a combination of experience presents, edible (sustainably sourced) and second hand items. Samuel wants a guitar because he claims he is really really  into guitar and wants lessons – I managed to find a fab second hand one on Gumtree and when I went round to collect we found out we already knew each other from church – Plymouth really is a village. I have found a lovely earring company called Scatty Bun who makes earrings out of vintage biscuits tins (present for me obviously!) and found another company that makes pictures from waste collected from the beach.

It is fun trying to think of presents and it is always good to be mindful of how much we already have.

Christmas food 

We are at my brothers for Xmas this year and he has had a PHD in Environmental Science and works for the National Farmers Union so I think it is fair to say I don’t need to worry too much about making sure the food is sustainably and locally sourced – he also gets a side of salmon from the River Tweed from a FRIEND!! Result!

Christmas parties

In our drive to reuse we have decided to have a New Year’s Eve party and ask everyone to bring their leftovers – we are hoping not to get poisoned and we are looking forward to some strange concoctions – if anyone turns up that is!!

Looking forward (ish) to Christmas and hoping you all are getting excited too!

Sustainable Swaps

Throughout the last ten months we have been looking at ways to swap our everyday items for something more sustainable so this is a glimpse into what we have changed and what we haven’t!

Firstly keeping our bodies clean. We started using soap instead of shower gel and tried to get soap with no packaging on – there is loads out there – this was easy. However the problem we had was storing the soap so it didn’t go mushy. Recently we found a fab soap dish (pictured below) that is perfect and keeps the soap dry and lasting a long time. We switched to using shampoo bars and solid conditioner – the bars are great and last ages – we got a little metal tin to store them in when we are away.


Next was deodorant – this is still the biggest challenge! I have tried solid deodorant in a tin, crystal deodorant, coconut plant deodorant and so on but to be honest I have not found any of them as good as my normal Mitchum deodorant. I have been through the process of letting your body get used to a different product but still no success. When I walk to work it is fairly strenuous and I do sweat somewhat so I was conscious for the rest of the day that I wasn’t pleasant to sit next to. My compromise is to use sustainable deodorant on the days I don’t expect to exert myself  and then other strenuous days use Mitchum – this seems to be working for me. Just for the record Mark has refused to try anything of the different deodorants!


We switched to bamboo toilet paper right in the beginning and we get bulk deliveries from Cheeky Panda. We wouldn’t go back to “normal” toilet paper now – the bamboo is so much better and we use less therefore the costs are about the same.


Keeping our clothes clean. I have already mentioned in another blog about the Ecoegg – this is great and so economical but it doesn’t have any smell even though my clothes are clean. I tried putting Lavender oil in the wash but there was no difference so I have reverted back to mainstream conditioner from Lenor – the meltable things. This seems to work well so I am buying them in bulk to keep the cost down and reduce the amount of packaging – you can get them in huge supersize bottles. It is a big initial outlay but worth it in the long run.



Keeping the house clean. The obvious swaps are switching to green products and refilling empty bottles – this is really easy to do as the Ethica superstore in town do a refill service for washing up liquid, hand soap, shampoo. It does work out a bit cheaper too. At the moment I am trying Eco sponges for washing dishes (pictured) but I am not sold on these as they really don’t last very long and aren’t very good in terms of getting food off dishes so we may try something else.

For cleaning glass and other surfaces I have bought this amazing Ecoegg hard surface cleaner – it is a clay based product and you have to put it on then wipe it off. I have used it everywhere and it is great – the windows are sparkling until Samuel goes near them! I also use white vinegar on mirrors but I have done this for a long time anyway – Wilko’s best – only £1.


Keeping me looking beautiful (Jane not Mark!). As you know my hair is completely grey now so I don’t use home dye anymore. I am used to the grey now and I am glad I have a distinctive white streak to add a bit of jazz……! My hair is in better condition and I definitely feel much more freedom rather than being tied to the hair dyeing cycle. My last swap is my moisturiser – I have started using Skin Drink from Lush which is based on sesame oil and it is amazing. My skin feels so soft and well hydrated with a bit more colour however it is four times the price of what I used to use but you win some, you lose some!



New job for Mark – saving the planet (ish..)

Some of you have been asking what it is Mark is doing and where is he working.

Well it is not hush hush, so not James Bond style, saving the world against Dr Evil or anything like that, but it is nearly as exciting.

Mark now works as the Estates Director for Westcountry Schools Trust, which is a Multi Academy Trust (MAT) with 13 schools. There was no previous Estates Director, so Mark has a clean slate to develop a corporate approach to Estates across the schools.


One of Mark’s first projects came from a science teacher who is very keen on sustainability – now we’re talking!!  Thom (science teacher and Nick the science technician) runs an Eco club for pupils at Ivybridge Community College (ICC) (one of the 13 schools in the MAT).


Thom spoke with Devon County Council (DCC) who put him in touch with Resource Futures who are funded by DCC to improve sustainability in schools. There was a meeting and discussion held, it was soon clear that ICC did not really do recycling, other than teachers recycling for themselves.

It was agreed an audit was required to fully understand the waste ICC produces. So all the bins had to be emptied at the end of one day. Then the next day all the bins were collected and stored in a room, all the bags were weighed to understand the total waste, along with the recycling which was also weighed.

With the help of the Eco club, Thom’s year 7 science classes on that day and volunteers (Mark being one of them) the waste was then handpicked and separated into lots of different waste streams, such as plastic bottles, other plastics, papers, food etc and each waste stream was then weighed. This would tell us in an idea world if everything was recycled correctly, the schools overall recycling rate. Needless to say in the real world we will not achieve this as the school cannot have 12 different waste bins at every location where there is a bin.

Some of the pupil got straight in and handpicked, using gloves of course, others need to be encouraged to the point where an adult would put the waste in their hand and say ‘in that bin please’ some even tried to sneak out the door. Do they not know how much fun they were missing out on?!

During the audit the pupils called Mark “Sir” – not something he is used to. He is certainly not getting that at home!

The initial figures from the audit was that the schools produced 369kg of waste in one day of which only 27% was recycled, which is pretty good as a purely voluntary option. Not all the figures are in from the audit, but Mark is writing the new strategy and once the figure are available the solution and implementation can be completed.

Initial thoughts are that the number of bin locations will be reduced with each location having a few bins clearly labelled for recycling, food waste in the kitchen is a key one. Bins will be removed from offices and most class rooms. There will be talks at assemblies and leadership talks on the audit results and looking to having the entire school engaged. With the year 7 being involved who are at the beginning of their time at ICC, there is a hope that in 5 years the entire culture of the school will change and be le


d by these students.

Another factor was the amount of non-recyclable packaging from the catering contractor. It was also noted that the plastic spoons are actually bio-degradable, but when this was researched the environment had to be 70 degrees C for a period of time for the degrading to take place, this is not practical. We all need to be aware of the factors of the small print, where the truth is hidden. Wooden forks is the much preferred solution.

Mark is also looking to roll the strategy and process out across the remaining 12 schools, so the impact can be quite significant.

In July 2019 another audit will take place this will then measure the improvement of the strategy.

Waste Management was initially part of Mark’s brief but with other factors was initially not a high priority, however due to the enthusiasm of school staff such as Thom and Nick it was clear action was needed before the enthusiasm waned leaving it difficult to get future engagement. It has been true team works across various departments across the school.

See I did tell you it was just as exciting as being a real life James Bond!

Consumerism – whose fault is it anyway?

It was with great sadness I read the news yesterday from the International Panel on Climate Change about how little time there is to prevent a global warming catastrophe. I read the recommendations which all centred around what we as individuals should be doing eg. eating less meat, walking instead of taking the car and basically consuming less. These all sound like reasonable things and to some extent do-able BUT after many years in public health and marketing I am hopping mad! Yet again the individual is blamed for their behaviour and over consuming but no blame is laid at the door of the huge money grabbing multinationals that have aggressively marketed to us and used a wide variety of tactics to change public policy and our environments.

In the 1940s it started to become clear that tobacco smoking was bad for you and perhaps caused lung cancer. By the 1960s it was irrefutable, unless you worked for the tobacco industry of course! Nowadays tobacco smoking rates are reducing however tobacco companies are still making large profits from other poorer countries around the world. They aren’t contributing to the healthcare budgets or compensating people for selling them a deadly addictive carcinogen – we (the general public) are picking up the pieces. The same is happening with the food industry and politicians stand by and blame parents or individuals for their unhealthy “choices”. There are no penalties for selling sugary drinks to schoolchildren for breakfast.

As city dwellers we receive about 5000 messages per day through all different channels.  85% of us have Smartphones with people checking their phones on average every 12 minutes. The so called Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple feed us image after image of the next thing we can’t live without or pictures of what your life should look like.


We like to think we are immune to marketing but sadly we are not – the new age of marketing is hypertargeting where advertisements are pinpointed directly to what interests we have or based on our previous buying habits. It is almost impossible to escape unless you decide to have no email address, mobile phone and don’t go on the internet. The Four Horsemen are making lots and lots of money from our so called “choices” and can not be allowed to dodge any responsibility of this mass consumerism that is taking over the world and threatening our existence.

You may not agree and you may feel we have more choice about our decisions but I have found that even with an elevated awareness of choice I am still being caught. Since our year began I have been doing a lot of reading and browsing about sustainability issues. Lo and behold all the advertising I am seeing are pictures of green leaves on products that supposedly save our planet.

I feel as individuals we have our part to play and as we get more conscious of the consequence of our choices we need to take responsibility however do not let those multinationals whose only (I repeat) ONLY desire is to make money and they will not take responsibility unless we make them.

The Illusion of Choice – study this!


Hitting a wall

We are now almost at the end of our 9 month of our year of living sustainably and to be honest we have hit a bit of a brick wall. Mark is now happily back in work in a fab job at a local Schools Academy Trust, Samuel is now in juniors and I am back at work after a lot of part time hours over the summer. So really all is going well but in terms of sustainability we have been stuck. We started getting the veg box again but I was just fed up with getting loads of veg I had no idea what to do with and I was finding I was wasting some of it – I felt really bad about this! So we looked around and we have found a different supplier to try and we got the first box today – £35 for everything pictured with Samuel and Mark – all organic too! We now have a lot of fruit to get through!


Also at work we have got an electric cargo bike on loan for a couple of months – see pictured. It has been a bit of getting used to as it is really really heavy and everyone stares at you in the high vis gillet and large green signs. It is fab going up the hills of Plymouth and it fits all our kit from work in the front. Yesterday I was whizzing around everywhere and managed to do 21 mph going down Transit Way.


Apart from this we aren’t really doing a lot more and I do wonder whether that is it? It does feel like we could do more but apart from going vegan (not a realistic option) what else can we do? Any ideas? We will try almost anything!



Kent and clothes shopping

Well what a fantastic summer – we have had a ball!! Perhaps not the most sustainable holidays ever but we spent the time with our amazing friends and family and giving and receiving a lot of love -ahhh!

Our most recent trip to Kent was great and we stayed in the middle of nowhere of a pheasant farm. We had to drive to get anywhere however the local pub was 0.7 miles away so it was walkable. On our way back one night we picked up all the plastic rubbish from the roadside and promptly forgot about it until we woke up with a slight hangover and a picnic bag full of dirty rubbish! Also in Kent they do kerbside food waste – yippee! I got a rather strange look from the resident of the house when I was taking a photo of their food recycling bin.

The challenge of clothes shopping

One of the things we did whilst in Kent was do some clothes shopping – shock, horror! When we started this year I merrily said we would buy all our clothes from charity shops however the reality of this is harder than it would seem. Mark was very resistant to getting second hand shirts and I must admit I really struggled to find decent work trousers and shorts so not to be beaten I did buy some “sustainable” shorts from Marks and Spencer and bamboo socks. After much discussion we decided to go to the Ashford Designer outlet and I have got to say – it was amazing!! Mark bought some really high quality shirts from TM Lewin and Jaeger and I bought some expensive trousers from Jaeger as well.

So our rationale for this decision was that buying higher quality items would give it a longer lifespan and therefore reduce the need to keep buying. We also tried to go for items that were easy to mix and match with. I have been reading about a capsule wardrobe where you live with only 36 items in your wardrobe but high quality and only buy / replace one item if you take one away. This a link to one article I read – Capsule wardrobe  – I am not sure about this but it is definitely food for thought and helps you look at style rather than what is just there in the shops.

Anyway after our busy summer we are getting back to real life – Mark started his new job yesterday (in a new shirt!) and Samuel starts in Juniors tomorrow (in new shorts!) and I am back to work in my second hand tops…..

First day in a new job!
Ashford designer retail of 200 shops